Who Does Your Religion Please?
Introduction-Why do people do what they do? I often ask
myself this question. I am particularly interested when it comes to why people
do what they do in matters of religion. Why do people join a particular
denomination, why is this person a Catholic, another a Baptist and yet another
a Jehovah's Witness or a Mormon. God's Word speaks to the different motivations
that men might have in practicing different forms of religion. Paul asks the
question of religious motivation in writing to the Christians of Galatia,
"For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if
I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ" (Gal. 1:10).
First, not all who are religious have the right motivation.
Second, the wrong motivation to be religious leads to religious error.
Third, the right motivation in religion is necessary to for one to be right in his religion.
Who does your religion please?
A. There are many who are "religious" to please others.
1. Perhaps they belong to a particular church because they are trying to please their parents or grandparents, their children, their husband or wife, good friends or their clients or their boss.
2. King Ahab sought to please his wife in his religion. "But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up" (1 Ki. 21:25).
3. Example: "Darwin's father Robert was a secret unbeliever who maintained a facade of orthodoxy so thorough that it included planning a clerical career for Charles. According to Himmelfarb: 'Although Robert's mode of expressing, or rather suppressing, his disbelief may have been of some influence. Not only did it make disbelief, when it came, appear to be natural, acceptable mode of thought, so that loss of faith never presented itself to him as a moral crisis or rebellion; more than that, it seemed to enjoin disbelief precisely as a filial duty'" (Phillip E. Johnson, quoting Gertrude Himmelfarb in Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution, Darwin on Trial, p. 179).
4. Down through the years I have seen the motives of those exposed that their religion sought to please others.
a. Steve left the Roman Catholic church for the Church of Christ to please his wife. Then several years and two children later he left the church for the Baptist church which his boss was a member apparently to please his boss in hopes of career advancement. And Steve's wife went along to the Baptist church with Steve to please him.
b. I have known those who became "religious" for a while simply to please their future husband or wife and then after getting married one day they decide they don't care about pleasing their husband or wife any more and they are not religious anymore.
c. I knew a fellow who was baptized and joined a particular church and started selling insurance to everyone in the church he could. When he ran out of clients in the church to sell insurance to he was stopped attending church and the last I knew he had joined a bigger church for more clientele. He was "religious" to please others so that he might sell them insurance!
B. Jesus warns about those who practice religion to please men.
1. "(1) Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. (2) Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (3) But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: (4) That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. (5) And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (6) But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. (7) But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. (8) Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him" (Mt. 6:1-8).
2. This warning applies to those who practice their religion to please their family. "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Mt. 10:37).
C. Do you practice our religion to be seen of and please others?
A. Moses warned the Jews in seeking to please themselves in their religion.
1. "Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes" (Deut. 12:8).
2. But time and again that's exactly what they did! They were religious but their religion was to please themselves, not to please God.
3. During the period of the Judges there was a lot of religion practiced, but "every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Jdg.17:6; 21:25).
B. King Saul is a pre-eminent example of one whose religion was to please himself.
1. Instead of waiting for Samuel to offer the sacrifice as God intended, Saul offered the sacrifice contrary to God's Word. When Samuel asked, "(11) And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash; (12) Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering. (13) And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever" (1 Sam. 13:11-13). Saul's answer was all about Saul and what Saul wanted to do, what would please Saul.
2. When Saul failed to destroy the Amalakites as the Lord commanded, Saul had all sorts of excuses, but what it really came down to was Saul did what he wanted to do! (1 Sam. 15).
C. Example of Jews left in land after the destruction of Jerusalem.
1. They told Jeremiah to tell them what God wanted them to do. "Whether it is pleasing or displeasing, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we send you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God" (Jer. 42:6).
2. Their words sound like so many today, but what they actually did was please themselves. When Jeremiah told them what the Lord commanded they rebelled against the Lord and did what they wanted.
3. "(2) that Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men spoke, saying to Jeremiah, "You speak falsely! The Lord our God has not sent you to say, 'Do not go to Egypt to dwell there.' (3) "But Baruch the son of Neriah has set you against us, to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they may put us to death or carry us away captive to Babylon." (4) So Johanan the son of Kareah, all the captains of the forces, and all the people would not obey the voice of the Lord, to remain in the land of Judah" (Jer. 43:2-4).
D. Why was King Jereboam's patently false religion accepted so readily by the people of Israel?
1. Jereboam set up golden calves, and altars in the northern most city in Israel, Dan and one in the southern city of Bethel. The gods were false, the altars were false, the priests were false, the whole religion stunk to high heaven (1 Ki. 12).
2. Why did so many Israelites accept it without a complaint? Jereboam knew they would accept it because their religion was to please themselves, not God.
3. He "said unto them, 'It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt'" (1 Ki. 12:28).
4. All Jereboam had to do to convert these people to a false religion was make it more "convenient" for them.
E. How many today belong to a particular denomination because it please them.
1. Many are like Rick Nelson's line in the song "Garden Party." "Singin' can't please everyone, so you gotta please yourself."
2. This is the religion of many today.
3. It is a religion of, by and for self.
4. The worshiper's words may profess: "I worship God" but their deeds ignore God. "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him" (Titus 1:16).
5. Their religion is found upon what "I think" what "I feel" and what "I believe."
6. Perhaps they want convenience; perhaps they want the church to entertain their children; perhaps they want to be entertained themselves; perhaps they want their religion to have plenty of social activities to keep them busy.
7. We had a fellow who attended this congregation for several months and seemed very happy to be here waiting for his wife and son to arrive. When they arrived, they discovered that the church here had Bible classes for their teenager, but it did not sponsor social activities for him. The church had Bible classes and lessons for his wife, but the church was not going to pay to send his wife to a camp retreat as others had. They left to find a church that would give them what would please them.
8. Many times have I had those who have asked not about what the church teaches, not about the Bible lessons and classes but about what social and recreational programs the church has for them and their children. Their motive, their interests and desires are evident. They want Jereboam's religion of convenience to please themselves. They are not seeking to please the Lord.
A. The Lord Jesus always did what was pleasing to the Father
1. His life was entirely determined by the will of God for Him, and doing that will, He found pleasure (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38) and pleased God.
2. "And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him" (Jn. 8:29).
a. Do you always seek and do those things that please God?
b. When you seek to please others or yourself, rather than God, the Father is no longer with you, even if what you are doing is "religious."
3. Jesus did not live selfishly to please himself. "For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me" (Rom. 15:3).
B. Do we seek to please God in our religion?
1. God was pleased under the Law of Moses for those who sought to please him. "For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant" (Isa. 56:4).
2. This should always be our aim:
a. Paul wrote: "Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him" (2 Cor. 5:9) (NKJV).
b. How we speak should be to please God. "But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts" (1 Thess. 2:4).
c. How we walk (live our lives) should be to please God. "Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more" (1 Thess. 4:1).
C. What Pleases God?
1. Faith: "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Heb. 11:6).
a. There are so many whose real motive in religion are revealed on this point.
b. When someone begins denigrating obedience to the will of God and speaking of a higher spirituality, you can be sure that their concept of religion and spirituality is whatever pleases them and makes them "feel good," not doing what pleases God!
c. This is pseudo-spirituality which emphasizes a person's feelings above what God commands.
d. "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight" (1 Jn. 3:22).
e. Harold Sharp used to give the illustration of a father giving a piece of property to his son with specific instructions on where to place a house, a barn and a well. When the son got ready to build on the property he looked over his father's instructions and said to himself, "I think that where my father wanted me to build the house and barn is a good place to build so I will build them there. But where my father wanted the well dug is not any good. I will dig the well in another place." Did the son obey his father's will? Some might argue he did two of the three things that his father wanted, but in reality, the son didn't do anything in obedience to his father. Everything he decided was not to obey or please his father, but rather everything he did was just what he wanted to do to please himself. So many act the same way in their religion. While some of what they do in their religion may agree with what God has commanded, their motive is not to please him but rather everything they do is to please themselves! And they do exactly what they want to do regardless of what God instructed.
3. Good works doing His Will:
a. "Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen" (Heb. 13:21).
b. "That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Col. 1:10).
D. What does not please God?
a. "But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness" (1 Cor. 10:5).
b. "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom. 8:8).
2. Disobedience to His Will: "(7) Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (8) He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:7-8).
Each of us need to search and examine our hearts.
"For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ" (Gal. 1:10).
By Wayne Greeson
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